User acquisition channels have evolved over the years: from PR and social media focused tactics in the early 2010s to boosting the app into the top rankings with incentivized traffic to a more holistic post-install KPI (key performance indicator) or CPA (cost per action) driven approach of today. User acquisition strategies too have always adapted to current market conditions in regards to demand and supply. A new year is upon us, so it’s the perfect time to take a look at what could be the next big alternate user acquisition channels you need to consider in 2017. You shouldn’t switch completely to any of these suggestions and forgo your performance driven efforts, but it might be a good idea to include some of the user acquisition channels listed below in your marketing mix to gain a broader outreach and enjoy those early adopter benefits.
Apple Search Ads — AdWords and ASO Had a Baby
Google has already rolled out their app store search ads and now Apple is looking to follow suit. In 2017, Apple search ads will start to roll out to more regions, especially in Europe.
Using Apple Search ads is simple — you can bid on keywords that’ll bring their app to the top of the list, above all other organic listings. It will be made clear that an advertiser’s app has been promoted, but this is a quick way to not only bring in more installs, but also help boost your organic rankings, especially for that specific keyword.
Unlike advertising on Twitter or Facebook, where marketers can target specific demographics, Apple Search Ads appear to all users that search a specific keyword — this is similar to Google search engine ads.
The biggest key will be to choose the right keywords — picking a mixture of general keywords relating to the app’s features, keywords relating to competitors and keywords to do with any popular content or apps the marketer may be affiliated with will certainly be a good start. People are even using Search Ads to conduct ASO (App Store Optimization), as this is the first time app marketers have access to direct data regarding keyword rankings in the App Store.
Everything is still in its early stages as far as Apple Search Ads are concerned, but they’re benchmarking with incredible rates. In December 2016, the average cost per install for Apple Search Ads was $1.31, as opposed to upwards of $8 for both Google and Bing. Obviously this will change over time the same way as the cost for Facebook app installs have changed with increasing popularity.
Influencer Marketing — YouTuber Meets App Marketer
Influencer marketing is an often-overlooked user acquisition channel that needs to be considered. Firstly, traditional publishers and online media portals are still going strong. Google’s search engine algorithms have heavily leaned towards a rich, content-heavy world where writing frequent high quality content can help a website’s search ranking massively. And lastly there are now lots of influencer marketing providers / sites available out there which makes it really easy to promote an app. They offer good targeting as well as performance-based pricing.
As a direct result of this shift in Google’s search algorithm, portals that rely on viewership for revenue are now looking for more high quality content to write — any websites within the smartphone/tech or mobile app niches are often more than willing to showcase and review apps for their user base for free. Creating an impressive media kit and building a contact list for popular online content websites can be a very inexpensive marketing method in 2017.
In general, consumers trust what influencers have to say and Google isn’t just favoring written content, either. Once again video is going to play a big part in 2017 — YouTube is proving to be a huge platform for content, with thousands of YouTube channels now making income from sharing videos. Facebook pages that share videos are also proving a very popular marketing channel for those looking for new outreach.
Working through an app marketing agency or an influencer network with a popular YouTube personality or Facebook page will be a great way to get good quality users in 2017.
App Indexing — Firebase in the Hole
Google has put lots of effort into making mobile friendly content more accessible to those looking for information through their search engine. Their biggest mobile friendly feature so far, which still has lots of potential to grow, is app indexing.
App indexing has been a valuable app user acquisition channel since 2015 and the feature was further improved in 2016 when Google launched Firebase App Indexing.
For those unaware, app indexing is a feature that allows app developers to create deep links within their apps - these links can then be reached from a related Google search. As an example, a Mexican recipe app could rank high in a Google search for ‘Mexican burrito recipe.’ A user could tap to be taken straight to the page within the app. If the app isn’t installed, an install option is made available and this is where the app user acquisition can be made.
Right now Google needs to fine-tune the system a little so that the search engine can make the right decision to rank a deep link to an application higher than a competing web page. The best way to make use of app indexing in its current state is to create a mobile friendly web page and then make that same content available in your app.
Once the deep-linking is set-up on the Google Play developer console, an install button for your app can appear in the search listing in place of the mobile friendly web page.
Snapchat — A New Challenger Approaches
No good marketing campaign is complete without a presence on social media. In 2017, this is especially true for app marketing. Acquiring new users through Facebook is incredibly easy thanks to the huge library of big data the social media site has about its users, although it might get more expensive in 2017 as Facebook recently stated they are reaching a limit on ad loads.
A similar offering is available on Twitter, and click-to-install ads are a medium that have lots of support from both camps.
2017 will be an interesting year for other social media platforms to get in on the action, too - Snapchat is expected to widen their monetization game and this could present plenty of opportunities for avid app marketers.
Snapchat is one of the fastest growing social media platforms around and the advertising features are not bad: besides the usual targeting you also can use lookalikes audiences as well as using email databases and other data sources and ad features will surely improve in 2017. There is no “self-serve” platform like for Facebook and you won’t have the reach and scale of Facebook, but you will probably see lower user acquisition costs in 2017, as advertising on Snapchat is currently super expensive.
Bots and AI — Siri, Find Me Some Apps
Chatbots are quickly becoming a new digital medium — accessible through channels like Slack, or more importantly, Facebook Messenger, this type of AI allows users to interact with adverts in a completely new way.
So far, users can download chatbots onto their version of Facebook Messenger. The bot can be programmed to scan any sent messages from the user and reply with something relevant. Not only can this be a great way to offer additional support to existing app users, but it may open up the future for user acquisition as well.
As an example, a recent experimental feature on Facebook allows marketers to advertise their chatbot to Facebook users. If a user interacts with the ad, a new chat thread between the bot and the user will be opened in the Facebook messenger app.
Facebook may have the reach to be at the forefront of chat bot and AI marketing, but plenty of other platforms are looking to follow suit. This is a user acquisition channel that app marketers should certainly get involved with early.
As always, the tip to any successful marketing campaign will be to spread your reach to as many viable channels as possible. In 2017, putting a focus on Google app indexing may be a great place to start, and putting more effort into creating exclusive partnerships or deals with content creators will be one unique way to get an edge on the competition. New ad mediums, such as chat bots and Apple Search Ads, are worth investing time into as well.